We have had some very cold days recently, and if it was hard on you, it was equally hard on your car. The car is a sentient being and feels the heat and cold. Otherwise, why the hassle of starting up on a cold winter’s day? If you park your car indoors rather than in the open, the car appreciates this extra care, and will start easily. This ability to feel is also reflected if you drive your car in a roughshod manner. Harsh driving promises bad fuel average. Drive your car with loving care and you will get a better fuel average.
Once the engine has fired up, you have to exercise some caution before moving off. It is a fallacy that cars need a lengthy warm-up period before being driven. Yet many drivers persist on idling cars to warm up the engine, or keep them idling for long periods while stationary. This idling habit worsens emissions. In Canada, cities like Montreal and Toronto have passed laws to limit idling time to no more than three minutes.
Taxis and police vehicles are exempted from this law. Any more than 10 seconds of idling needs more fuel then switching off and restarting the engine. Excessive idling is not only detrimental to the environment but for the car engine as well. Operating at idle speed can leave soot deposits and generate corrosive sulphuric acid in an engine. Cars are best warmed up by starting. Idle for no more than 60 seconds, and drive off slowly. This saves the engine warm-up time by half and saves fuel.
There is another piece of advice that your Canadian colleagues give you when you have bought your first car and the winter sets in. In many cases, if you live in an apartment, cars are parked outdoors. With snow on the ground, temperatures plummet to minus 20-30O Celsius. Every part of the car is exposed to these temperatures. The oil in the gearbox, differential and the grease in the wheel bearings are close to being solid. You fire up the engine, warm it up and move off. None of the other oils have time to warm up. It is an accepted fact that 90 per cent of the wear and tear of the engine takes place in the first 90 seconds of starting the car. Revving up the engine is the primary reason.
It is recommended that you start the car and move off slowly for the first couple of hundred metres of the day’s drive. This way all oils and grease work up to operating temperatures together. It promises longevity to the car parts and low repair bills.
As important as the starting up procedure is, the shutting down procedure is just as important. Especially, if you have a turbo-charged engine. Before switching off your turbo-charged engine, let it idle for 60-90 seconds. The turbo charger can rev up to speeds of over 50,000 rpm. If you were to switch off the engine as soon as you got home, there is a very good chance that you could damage the turbo charger by switching off instantly. It needs 60-90 second to wind down from 50,000 rpm. So wait, the switching off procedure is important.
A number of the new bread of cars have variable geometry turbos – VGT. This means that the turbo goes to work almost the moment the engine starts up. The degree of boost put out builds up slowly and reaches its maximum output at about 1,750 rpm of the engine. It may vary from engine to engine, according to the manufacturers’ specifications.
The difference between a turbo charger and a VGT can be compared to an alternator and the dynamo of days gone by. An alternator goes to work almost immediately the car starts, even at idle speed. For the dynamo to go to work, you had to rev up the engine. If started to work at about 1500 rpm.
Can you fit a turbo charger on any engine? Yes, you can. But why would you want to do that? To get better performance. However, the innards of your car — the rings, pistons, crank, con-rod and clutch — may be worn out and may not be able to cope with the 30 per cent plus power that the turbo charger will generate. The engine components were not made for this.